Ransomware has become one of the most common types of cyber-crime, devastating individuals, businesses, and government agencies. Law enforcement has largely failed to catch or deter the hackers, who are usually foreign. But we found that U.S. companies, exploiting regulatory loopholes and sometimes misleading victims, have secretly abetted the rise of ransomware for their own profit.

This podcast was produced with the MIT Technology Review.

Ransomware is proliferating across the country, disabling computer systems and harming critical infrastructure — hospitals, city governments, schools, even an oil pipeline. The technology that enables ransomware may be new, but extortion and ransom are not.

So why is this happening now? And can it be stopped?

In this five-part series from MIT Technology Review and ProPublica hosted by Meg Marco, a former ProPublica senior editor, we look at the money, people and technology behind the explosion of ransomware that is delivering hundreds of millions of dollars to cybercriminals around the world.


Episode 1

A new-age iteration of the old-age extortion problem: a ransomware vigilante, a piracy (as in actual boats) expert, a school administrator and a kidnapping victim share their experiences.

Episode 2

In an absurd contract, look into the criminal world where the stakes are high but the methods are increasingly businesslike, and meet the people who interact with the ransomware hackers.

Episode 3

After the Colonial Pipeline payment, the FBI followed the money and cybersecurity researchers followed the ransomware group. We followed both.

Episode 4

We look at the reasons ransomware is so hard to solve and ask hard questions about who is really helping the victims.

Episode 5

The problem of ransomware has many causes but no clear solution. What's coming next?

This series is hosted by Meg Marco and produced by Emma Cillekens, Tate Ryan-Mosley and Anthony Green. It’s inspired by reporting from Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden from ProPublica. It's edited by Bobbie Johnson, Michael Reilly, Mat Honan and Robin Fields. The mix engineer is Erick Gomez with help from Rebekah Wineman. The theme music is by Jacob Gorski. Emma Cillekens is the voice coach. The executive producers of "The Extortion Economy" podcast are Meg Marco and Jennifer Strong.